STUART — A 70-year prison sentence meted out to one of four young men who held the family of a prominent Martin County real estate broker at gunpoint in his home three years ago has been reduced to 20 years.
Investigators say Juan Carlos Hernandez, 21, and three other men — all masked and armed — broke into the home of Patrick Stracuzzi in May 2010, held his children at gunpoint and left with jewelry, cash and computer equipment.
Hernandez was the first of the four members of a Stuart-based gang to plead guilty and was given the 70-year term in December 2011 by Circuit Judge William Roby.
Later, though, the alleged ringleader, 25-year-old Ramiro Medrano, accepted a 15-year prison term in a plea agreement, followed by deportation to Mexico. Carlos Mendoza, 22, who had agreed to testify against the others, also was sentenced to 15 years, and Port St. Lucie resident Noel Moya, 21, who prosecutors said held the gun, was given a 25-year sentence.
“We felt they all deserved life sentences, but we didn’t want to traumatize the Stracuzzis again by putting them through a trial,” Assistant State Attorney Nita Denton said.
Hernandez was represented by the Public Defender’s Office through his original sentencing, but Stuart attorney Lance P. Richard picked up the case to appeal on the issue of three burglary counts that Roby left open.
After about two years, the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and sent the case back to Roby for resentencing.
The appellate court also ordered the state attorney’s office to drop the three open burglary counts.
Richard said normally he would have had only 60 days after Hernandez’s sentencing to appeal the sentence, but the dropping of the open charges gave him a new window to ask Roby for a reduced sentence.
Meanwhile, Denton said, prosecutors realized that 70 years for Hernandez was unfair in light of the sentences later given to the other three men who were involved.
Richard said, “The whole thing is tragic, but my goal was to get him some kind of life after prison. With a 70-year sentence, there is no life after prison.”
He said that in negotiations with prosecutors, they agreed on 20 years, midway between the 25 years given to Moya, the gunman, and the 15 years given to Medrano, the alleged ringleader, on whom Denton said they had the least evidence.
TC Palm Article